Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Free Speech Victory
On August 10, a major victory for freedom of speech was achieved. President Obama signed the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act) into law, stopping Americans from being sued for libel by individuals in other countries with inadequate First Amendment rights. The legislation is a defeat for those who would seek to silence Americans speaking out against radical Islam by threatening to bankrupt them with costly lawsuits.
The story of the SPEECH Act starts with Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, the director of the American Center for Democracy, who bravely stood up to a Saudi billionaire named Khalid bin Mahfouz who she accused of financing terrorist groups in her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed–and How to Stop It. Mahfouz, who died of a heart attack on August 16, 2009, targeted Ehrenfeld with a lawsuit as he had done to other authors accusing him of having ties to terrorism.
Taking advantage of the United Kingdom’s libel laws that force the defendant to prove their accusations in court, Mahfouz sued 45 publishers and journalists and all settled, except for Dr. Ehrenfeld. The U.N. Human Rights Committee even reported in 2008 that the laws “discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as ‘libel tourism.’”
The result is that authors and publishers become unwilling to write about characters such as Mahfouz, aware of the cost that a lengthy legal case brings. Those targeted with such lawsuits have great difficulty finding work, as potential employers want to avoid meeting the same fate. This tactic, called “lawfare,” is very effective for nefarious organizations and individuals with the means of suing less wealthy critics into bankruptcy.
Ehrenfeld did not live in the U.K., and did not publish or even promote her book there. However, Mahfouz was able to justify the lawsuit because 23 copies of the book were bought there online. She reacted to the lawsuit by refusing to participate in the proceedings, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction. As a result, she lost by default and she countersued from the United States saying her rights were being violated. The New York Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, and the state passed the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, often referred to as “Rachel’s Law.” Illinois, Florida, California, Maryland, Utah and Tennessee followed.
Dr. Ehrenfeld’s allegations against Mahfouz have a solid foundation. Mahfouz founded the Muwaffaq Foundation that was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a financier of Al-Qaeda. The individual chosen by Mahfouz to run the charity, Yassin al-Qadi, was also blacklisted for his links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas.
“The Muwafaq Foundation provided logistical and financial support for a mujahidin battalion in Bosnia…A number of individuals employed by or otherwise associated with the Muwafaq Foundation have connections to various terrorist organizations,” a November 2001 letter from the Treasury Department stated. It also accuses the charity of financing Hamas and Abu Sayyaf, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines.
The 9/11 Commission Report also substantiates Ehrenfeld’s allegations. It does not mention Mahfouz, but it refers to a Gulf fundraising operation called the “Golden Chain” that funded Bin Laden from 1996 to 1998. Operatives connected to the network were arrested in 2002 in Bosnia with a document listing members of the “Golden Chain,” including Mahfouz.
The charity had been accused of sponsoring terrorism as early as 1995 by Africa Confidential, but the publication apologized and settled after being sued. Mahfouz admitted that he donated over $270,000 to Osama Bin Laden’s organization during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan after being approached by one of Bin Laden’s brothers. Extensive documentation exists of the links between the Muwafaq Foundation and terrorism all the way back to the mid-1990s.
Mahfouz also has a troubled history. He agreed to pay $225 million to settle fraud charges in 1993 after the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which he owned one-third of, was closed in 1991 because of its money laundering. Mahfouz denies any fault, saying his settling was just a “business decision.”
Terrorism expert and best-selling author Richard Miniter told FrontPage that these public records don’t make much of a difference in Britain when it comes to libel lawsuits. The defendant is required to prove their reporting in the court of law, going beyond citing such public documents. In the process, they must take on legal expenses that will likely lead them to financial ruin. This possibility is leading to self-censorship, he warned.
“It is a threat that hung over every writer,” Miniter said, adding that this was just one method in an overall lawfare strategy by Islamists.
“There is a constant effort by Islamic organizations, like the Muslim Brotherhood, to use America’s legal system against us, like they used our airplanes against us on 9/11,” he said. The goal is to punish anyone publicly standing against their agenda.
Now, the federal government has passed the SPEECH Act without a single dissenting vote, undermining those who would seek to use their wealth and power to intimidate whistleblowers like Dr. Ehrenfeld.
“For the first time, someone has blunted one of their attacks. All of our action has been defensive, and that’s why this is so important, that’s why it’s a major victory,” Miniter said.
This isn’t just a victory for her, but a victory for all Americans who believe in speaking out against ill-intentioned foreigners.
Victims of anti-social behaviour can name and shame police who don't help them, says British government crime boss
Home Secretary Theresa May is ordering police to 'reclaim the streets' from louts they have allowed to run riot. Anyone who feels to have been repeatedly ignored by officers when complaining about loutish behaviour will be given new powers to demand action.
Officers will also be instructed to treat vandalism and low-level thuggery as a crime - rather than 'anti-social behaviour' which is the problem of town halls.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail on the eve of her speech to the Tory conference, Mrs May revealed that the public will be given formal rights to complain to superiors if police do not respond to multiple complaints.
It is hoped that the prospect of an officer being named in a complaint by a harassed member of the public will lead to thuggish behaviour being treated far more seriously.
The Home Secretary's decision follows a blistering report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, who said police have staged a 30-year 'retreat from the streets'. Sir Denis O'Connor said that, as a result, the 'disease' of anti-social behaviour had been allowed to blight Britain.
Mrs May said she wanted to get rid of the term 'anti-social behaviour' - which was largely coined by the last Labour government. Instead, it should be called what it is - 'crime and disorder', she said.
'By calling it anti-social behaviour, it made it seem less important and it made it seem less of a crime. It is a crime. Dealing with this is about cutting crime and the job of the police is cutting crime. 'Part of the problem is that people feel they are reporting things that are wrong but they are not seeing any action. As a society we need to reclaim the streets, and part of that is about police being on the streets and being visible.'
In her speech today, Mrs May will spell out how police will face a formal investigation by the local Community Safety Partnership if they ignore repeated pleas for help from the public. The partnership - a panel which includes local police chiefs - will then have to explain what action is being taken to new locally-elected police commissioners.
It is a direct response to the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled 18-year-old daughter. Miss Pilkington, who was being tormented by a gang of youths, made 33 desperate 999 calls over seven years. But she was accused of 'over-reacting' and, unable to bear the torment any more, she killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire.
Mrs May will announce the appointment of Baroness Newlove - whose husband Garry was murdered after standing up to drunken vandals - as the Government's new 'champion for active, safer communities'.
She will say: 'Too often we hear stories of victims who are passed from pillar to post, from the police to environmental services to the housing department before being passed back to the police again. 'We hear about victims who call the police on dozens of occasions but aren't taken seriously and in many cases are ignored altogether. So as part of our reforms to antisocial behaviour powers, we will give victims and communities the right to force the authorities to take action where they fail to do so.'
The HMIC's study found millions of acts of drunken loutishness and vandalism are going unreported as they have become 'normalised'.
The basic task of keeping the peace had been relegated to a 'second-order consideration' for officers who were obsessed with meeting targets for recorded crimes, he added.
The 'Stop the Rot' report showed that last year, 3.5million acts of anti-social behaviour were reported. But this represents only one in four of the estimated real total, meaning an astonishing 14million such incidents were carried out - one every two seconds.
The report warned that police forces are routinely ignoring thousands of repeat victims of harassment and thuggery. Forces often mark such calls as 'low priority' because they do not qualify as crimes. As a result, no action is taken.
A separate HMIC report in July found that just 11 per cent of officers are visible and available to the public at any one time, and more were available on Monday morning than when they might most be needed, on Saturday nights when there is more drunken aggression.
Mrs May indicated she will forge ahead with plans to scrap the antisocial behaviour order, which she said had become a badge of honour among thugs. She wants to replace the Asbo with a far simpler, less bureaucratic punishment to keep thugs in check.
Labour introduced a multitude of policies aimed at combating antisocial behaviour, including Asbos. But last year Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted Labour had 'coasted' on the issue.
The lengths you need to go to in order to get help against louts in Britain
Mother stands in front of train
When a gang of drunken football yobs began hurling foul abuse at a mother and her five-year-old son on a train, she presumed someone would intervene. But the driver refused to call the police or stop the train and the guard was nowhere to be seen.
Faced with giving in or standing up to the 30-strong group, Lisa Robinson decided to take them on.
When the train reached her station she got off and stood in front of it, refusing to move until the driver called police. Rail company Arriva then terminated the train there, leaving the abusive fans to make their own way home.
Yesterday Mrs Robinson said: ‘It was a terrifying experience, but I’m glad I did it. It was a victory for ordinary people.’
The 41-year-old mother had been on a day out with her husband Peter, 61, and their son Harry to celebrate his fifth birthday. The couple, civil servants from Ystrad Mynach near Caerphilly in South Wales, had taken Harry to Cardiff before returning home on the Arriva service.
As they boarded the two-carriage train on Saturday September 25, they realised it was full of drunken Cardiff City fans who had just seen their team beat Millwall.
The family tried to ignore the shouting and swearing hooligans, but when the train arrived at a station and the gang began abusing a woman on the platform, Mrs Robinson decided to intervene. ‘I walked down to the group and asked the main perpetrator to stop swearing,’ she said. ‘They then turned their abuse on me, calling me a ‘‘dyke’’ and a string of four-letter words.
‘Nobody said anything. I was terrified. I wanted to alert the guard, but there was no way into the next carriage so we were completely trapped. ‘Then they swore at my husband, who was sitting with Harry, and taunted him about his age. By the time the train set off again I was crying and shaking.’ She was so frightened she pulled the emergency handle at the next station.
But she said that when the driver got into the carriage, he simply reset the alarm and went back to drive the train, ignoring her husband’s request to call the police.
Mrs Robinson added: ‘The train carried on for another two stops, with the abuse continuing, until it arrived at our station, Ystrad Mynach. When I got off I had Harry in my arms and he was crying. The driver completely ignored us and told us to take it up with the guard. We had not seen one for the entire journey – I think he had been too frightened to intervene.
‘It was then I decided to take direct action. I spoke to the driver who again ignored me – he wouldn’t even take his sunglasses off to talk to me. ‘So I handed Harry to Peter, got on to the tracks and stopped the train from leaving the station. Some of the football yobs got off to give me more abuse and take pictures of me on their mobiles.’
She said the guard then appeared and asked her to move, which she refused to do. She eventually moved after the station controller promised her he would not move the train and that the police would be called. Two British Transport Police officers arrived and, after discussions with railway officials, the train was terminated.
Mrs Robinson said yesterday that she was glad she had made a stand and would do it again. ‘I think too often these yobs are allowed to get away with it,’ she added. ‘When the thugs started kicking off, one woman said to me that I should accept it as it was just the world we live in. But I refuse to live in a society where this sort of thing goes unpunished.
‘Arriva sent me flowers and apologies, but what they really need to do is plan to make sure these things don’t happen. They knew there was a football game on and should have laid on extra staff. Instead, they had one guard who I’m convinced was hiding in the other carriage. ‘I still can’t believe the driver ignored my husband when he asked him to phone the police.’
Peter Northcott, head of stations at Arriva Trains Wales, said: ‘We take all complaints very seriously and I personally contacted Mr and Mrs Robinson on the day of this incident. A full investigation is taking place with the British Transport Police.’
A spokesman for British Transport Police said: ‘Inquiries, including viewing CCTV and speaking to witnesses who were on the train, which was travelling between Penarth and Bargoed, are ongoing.’
Australia: "Soft" jails a disaster
CHANGES to discipline in state prisons have sparked an outbreak of crime at one of Queensland's highest-security jails. The Courier-Mail can reveal a spate of incidents at Maryborough Correctional Centre since controversial changes to the disciplinary process were implemented across Queensland four months ago.
In one incident at the medium-to-high-security facility – which houses 479 male inmates – a female prison nurse was allegedly assaulted by one of Queensland's most violent criminals. The nurse suffered facial injuries, including two black eyes, when a prisoner serving an indefinite sentence for attempted murder allegedly attacked the nurse with a bottle on August 26.
A prison officer, who did not want to be named for fear of losing their job, said prison management had broken protocol because the inmate was not transferred to another jail. "That nurse is still medicating that prisoner," the officer told The Courier-Mail.
Police did not receive a formal complaint until September 17 – three weeks after it happened.
Corrective Services Minister Neil Roberts refused to comment on the assault, but said the nurse had continued to work in the same area as the offender "under staff supervision". Corrective Services was considering transferring the inmate to another facility, he said.
In another alarming incident at Maryborough, prison sources say management waited two days before acting on reports from prison officers that two inmates had been seen on CCTV "shooting up" (injecting drugs intravenously) in a prison laundry on September 11. The delayed search failed to find evidence of the crime. Two inmates were also seen injecting drugs in a prison yard on June 5, the minister confirmed.
The Queensland Public Sector Union and prison staff blame the rise in incidents on a new Breach of Discipline process which they say has stripped staff of authority. QPSU organiser David McInnes said the change in philosophy "came out of nowhere". Mr McInnes said that until recently "mini-hearings" for inmates who committed offences were conducted by correctional supervisors at any time of the day or night, but now they were heard by a manager during office hours. "At the end of the day (management) is generally perceived as being softer in terms of consequences," he said.
"Management at Woodford are all over it and coping well, but at Wacol they've got big problems with breaches (of discipline) lapsing. Management is running around asking them to not (discipline) prisoners."
A prison officer said inmates had "gained the upper hand" since the power shift. "(Management) are in an admin block and spend hardly any time face to face with prisoners. We're there dealing with them daily," the officer said. "(Prisoners) are pushing the boundaries with their verbal abuse and we've got to be nice to them and treat them with respect. "The prisoners' behaviour, knowing that their punishment is going to be minor, just seems to be getting worse.
Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Corrections, Ross McSwain, gave conflicting responses, denying there was a new disciplinary policy, but admitting there had been changes in procedure. Mr McSwain admitted a review late last year had led to managers replacing correctional supervisors in the disciplinary process.
He said elevating the breach hearings to a manager was designed to ensure greater impartiality and separate the roles of prison officers from managers when investigating incidents. "Maintaining an appropriate level of consistency of penalties has been part of the changes."
Opposition prisons spokesman Vaughan Johnson said jails were not being run in accordance with government policy. "There have been other incidents that have left staff scratching their heads as to who's running the prison," he said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.